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RSL signs Saunders and Stephenson

SANDY, Utah (ABC 4 Sports) - Real Salt Lake signs goalkeeper Josh Saunders and midfielder Khari Stephenson to contracts.
SANDY, Utah (ABC 4 Sports) - Real Salt Lake made a pair of signings on Friday, adding GK Josh Saunders and MF Khari Stephenson. Per league and club policy, terms of the deals will not be disclosed.

Saunders comes to RSL after spending the last four seasons with the L.A. Galaxy. The 31-year-old ‘keeper started in L.A.’s 2011 and 2012 MLS Cup wins but left the club this offseason after failing to agree to a new contract. Saunders is expected to serve as the backup to RSL starting GK Nick Rimando in 2013.

Saunders has been training with the Claret-and-Cobalt since early-February, showing well in several of RSL’s preseason matches. The veteran backstop has made 53 career MLS regular season starts, notching 20 shutouts, allowing 64 total goals and compiling a record of 31-12-11.

Saunders made 27 regular season appearances for L.A. in 2012, registering nine shutouts and allowing 36 goals.

“We were surprised that Josh was available and we are happy to bring him in,” Real Salt Lake General Manager Garth Lagerwey said. “We want to have competition at every spot and I think we got to a point with our goalkeeping situation where we hadn’t had that. Signing Josh is key to changing that.”

Stephenson joins Real Salt Lake after spending the last two-and-a-half seasons with the San Jose Earthquakes. The rangy Jamaican international did not have his contract option picked up by San Jose after the 2012 season and was not selected in the MLS Re-Entry process.

The 32-year-old Stephenson has been training with RSL since the team’s January preseason camp in Casa Grande, Ariz. The 6-foot-2 Stephenson has played on both the outside and the top of the Claret-and-Cobalt’s midfield diamond, scoring the winning goal in the final seconds of RSL’s 3-2 win over New England on Wednesday in the FC Tucson Desert Diamond Cup.

Stephenson made 27 regular season appearances for San Jose last year, scoring two goals, tallying three assists and making 10 starts. He has 28 career caps and six goals for the Jamaican national team.

“Khari is another player who we did not expect to be available and we feel very fortunate that he was” Lagerwey said. “He’s an attack-minded player who is very physical and keeps the ball well. We think he’ll be a very good fit in our system.”

Real Salt Lake will play Seattle Sounders FC in the FC Tucson Desert Diamond Cup Final on Saturday at Kino Veterans Memorial Stadium. The match will be televised nationally on the NBC Sports Network starting at 6 p.m. MT.


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